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Madeline Katt Theriault
Toronto, Natural History/Natural Heritage, 1992. 120pp, paper, $14.95
ISBN 0-920474-69-1.


Reviewed by Sharon A. McLennan McCue.

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

Reading this book is like sitting in Madeleine Katt's kitchen over many evenings and many pots of tea and listening to her tell about her early days in a time that seems light years away. Because the book is written in what is obviously a transcript of her conversa­tion, its style is, at times, awkward; however, this awkwardness serves as a reminder that the speaker is working in her second language (her first being Ojibway).

Madeleine was raised by her great-grandparents and her grandfather, after being left with them by her young mother. This was often the way such things happened, without any formal arrangements, but with children being cared for by those most capable of it. It is to the reader's great benefit that she was cared for by these people, who were really the last generation of Ojibway in the area to be able to live on the land. Madeleine's life is broken into the first half, when she lived "the Indian way," and the second half, when she lived "the white way."

It is the first part of her life that this book concentrates on. This very simple book provides material for a fascinating analysis of how cultural genocide (and I use the term advisedly) occurred slowly, as contact with non-Native society increased. Anyone who longs for earlier times might reconsider how Native people were treated in those days. Madeleine gives an example of how, having raised her daughter and kept her in school despite the hardship of being a single parent, all the girl's dreams were shattered one day in the doctor's office.

The doctor asked Virginia, "What grade are you in?" "Grade thirteen," said Virginia. "What do you want to be when you finish school?" asked the doctor. Virginia's reply was "practice law." The doctor laughed out loud and said, "What makes you think you could become a lawyer, Virginia? Did you ever hear of an Indian lawyer, Indian doctor, or Indian priest? Never!"

A kinder and gentler world it was not.

I would recommend this book for any library wishing to add to its aboriginal collection. Taken in context, it could be a rich

Sharon A. McLennan McCue, formerly the Library Services Consultant for the Cree School Board of James Bay in Chisasibi, Quebec, now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
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